One of the great early jazz drummers, Butch Ballard could make a snare drum sound as it if was being hit by a ball bearing, a different kind of "B.B." than the Camden comrade whoser real name was George Edward Ballard. Before his 25th birthday he was the choice of some of the most musically demanding bandleaders of the syncopated syndrome, from the poignantly humorous pianist and singer Fats Waller to the humorously poignant trumpeter Cootie Williams. In some ways the devlopment of his drumming style became a matter of bearing down. Some of his later associates preferred a style of swing so relentlessly driving that
Waller might have described it as "your feet's too big", at least in terms of the volume level required for the bass drum to be heard above the tenor saxophone of Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis.
When Ballard went into educating in the mid '80s, he was allowing students access to a treasure trove of experiences, from his affiliation with Louis Armstrong after the second World War to his running involvement with both the Duke Ellington and Count Basie bands. The latter aspect of his career provided rich fertilizer for his garden of professional associations, which in the '50s included tours and recording with both big band giants as well as a variety of stimulating projects with bandstand friends such as Shorty Baker, Ernie Royal or Arnett Cobb. From the '60s the drummer began focusing on leading his own band from a Philadelphia base, eventually shifting the tempo to include a schedule of private lessons. In 1989 he played on his 56th recording date. A dozen years later the energetic octogerian was still involved in a community arts organization and teaching music, naturally.